Hi I have a 5 year old. She never wants to sleep. She will get up around 10am or maybe a little later and will go all day without a nap. She will not go to sleep until 2am, sometimes later, and repeat the same cycle every day. I have tried talking to her doctor and have tried everything they have suggested. I have also tried melatonin 5mg up to 10mg and she will not calm down.
I’m sorry to hear you are going through this! It sounds like every night is pretty exhausting for everyone involved. Without receiving more information on what you have tried in the past, it’s hard to gauge how exactly to move forward.
Some of the first questions that come to mind are as follows: What time are you putting your daughter to bed? A common bedtime for a 5 year old is 7pm – 7:30pm. What is the routine for putting her to bed? Is the routine consistent? It’s very important for children at this age to have consistency in their routines. The same steps should be taken every night so that her mind is preparing for sleep before she even steps foot into her bedroom.
I’m also interested in learning what your daughter does during these late-night hours. Is she lying in a dark room or is she playing with toys/electronics or watching television? It could be as simple as she sees there being a benefit for staying up late (extra tv, extra snuggle time with mom or dad, more attention, etc.). If you can see ways that she is receiving positive reinforcement for staying up, I would consider taking away these “rewards”.
It sounds like your daughter has set her own schedule which entails falling asleep around 2am and waking around 10am – 10:30am. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average amount of sleep for a 5 year old is usually between 10-13 hours. Although every child is going to vary on how much sleep they need, your daughter is sleeping significantly less than the average 5 year old.
Although extremely rare, it might be that your daughter requires less sleep than the average 5 year old (I’d be curious to know how her behavior is during the day). If this is the case, I would still advise changing her sleep schedule to be more in line with her circadian rhythm. Meaning, she should fall asleep when it’s dark outside and wake when the sun is coming up. Right now, she is waking long after the sun has risen. I would encourage you to begin waking her earlier in the morning to try and shift the times she is sleeping.
A much more likely scenario is that your daughter has become chronically sleep-deprived. This would explain why she never seems to “calm” down in the evening. When a child does not get enough sleep, their body is in a constant state of stress. If a child doesn’t fall asleep during their “sleep window”, the stress hormone (cortisol) begins pulsing through the body. Increases in cortisol lead to a harder time falling asleep. This could develop into an unfortunate cycle where a super tired child cannot seem to calm down enough to actually fall asleep.
Whether you conclude that your daughter naturally needs less sleep OR your child is overtired, I would suggest you begin by moving your daughter’s wake-time. She should be waking between 6am – 7:30am. By gradually moving her wake-time earlier, you will begin to see how this impacts her bedtime. She should naturally begin needing to go to sleep earlier in the evening (especially if there aren't rewards for staying awake). Once you have her waking at 7am, continue to move her bedtime earlier into the evening. It will take some time to figure this out, but it can be done.
I hope this information gives you a new perspective and some new ideas for how to move forward. If you feel you need a more customized plan for your family, feel free to email me at: Kelly@sweetdreamsconsulting.com.